Lewis and Tolkien: Creators of High Fantasy

We owe a lot to these two men. Especially us Fantasy authors: Tolkien and Lewis heavily influenced the genre of High Fantasy. There are many types of Fantasy; ranging from Sci-Fi Fantasy (Think Star Wars, or Dune) to Dark Fantasy (Think Diablo III), but High Fantasy remains one of the most classic genres literature has ever known.

High Fantasy is ancient in origin. We’ve had stories of Elves, Dragons, Gods, Dwarves, and Magic since the dawn of time. One such main outlet of high fantasy was folktales. The Brothers Grimm complied many hundreds of fairy tales that we now know today. Such fairy tales have had a heavy influence on both literature and culture.

However, the archetypical deep-delving dwarves and long-living elves had not yet been invented before Lewis and Tolkien arrived. A few works had been pioneered before their time, like E. Nesbitt’s Five Children and It and George Macdonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, but the greatest wave had yet to come. Indeed, one of Lewis’ main inspirators was Macdonald himself.

Lewis and Tolkien were both part of a writers’ group in England called The Inklings. The club included other published writers, but Lewis and Tolkien were the most renowned. They would meet once a week to talk about the weather, the war, movies, and writing. Oftentimes they would bring excerpts to the club to pore over and discuss.

It is unclear whether or not Lewis and Tolkien were taking cues from one another, but there are many ideas that match in both of their works: Strong magical influence, medieval-type combat, delving dwarves, and more. However, one significant detail that the two did NOT have in common was the subject of elves. Lewis’ classic work The Chronicles of Narnia contains no elves whatsoever, coloring it differently from Tolkien’s work. However, many of the aspects remain the same.

These first fantasy-defining novels were met with both criticisms and applause. They were hailed as “Modern Fairy-Tales” and met with much enthusiasm from the new fans. Little did anyone know that both of these men set the scene for future writers seeking to make a living.

As soon as this novel “Fantasy” genre was solidified, more authors jumped on the train. It wasn’t stealing for certain writers to take elements like immortal elves and deep-delving dwarves; it was as original as the term “warp drive” in Sci-Fi parlance. At the time, it wasn’t known as “High Fantasy”, but quickly spawned so many variants that it had to be distinguished from other sub-genres.

Even though Lewis and Tolkien are long gone, fantasy lives on. As one critic famously said: “Modern Fantasy literature just rearranges the furniture in Tolkien’s attic.” Hey! Be nice to Lewis!

Drop a thought in the comments section below or leave a like if this article struck a chord in your imagination. Tell us about YOUR experiences with Fantasy, both what you’ve read AND written. What’s your favorite part of writing or reading Fantasy?


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

4 thoughts on “Lewis and Tolkien: Creators of High Fantasy

  1. I love fantasy, esp. Lewis’s books. In truth, I never knew much about the author or his great influence on the fiction world, so it was great to learn something new! I also think it’s SO cool that Tolkien and Lewis knew each other and probably talked about their future works in being a part of The Inklings. Thanks for a very informative and interesting post!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This was very refreshing to hear honestly. I always wanted to understand more of Tolkien and Lewis and to hear that they are the founding fathers (In a way) of fantasy! I just hope to live up to their works but I’ll just be happy writing all day long even if no one likes my stories. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It has always interested me how one genre of theme of fiction transitions into another genre, theme, or even entirely new media format–or even at times there’s no major change, but rather a new leaning (e.g. from the classical vampire count fantasy established in the book “Dracula” by Bram Stoker to its transition to the original Castlevania series). Great read!

    Liked by 2 people

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